David Fincher has wanted to make a classic crime noir for several years now. People tend to forget, but the filmmaker almost directed “The Black Dahlia” (he was attached before Brian De Palma eventually took over), and for several years he tried to make “Torso,” an Eliot Ness crime thriller about the famous detective trying to stop a serial killer in 1930s Cleveland (director David Lowery is making that now).
In fact, when Fincher was attached to the adaptation of James Ellroy’s ‘Dahlia’ novel, he envisioned a five-hour, $80-million miniseries with movie stars (Tom Cruise being the lead). That obviously didn’t happen and the project fell through (and Fincher moved on to “Zodiac”). But it seems that Fincher is circling around a similar idea, once again with Ellroy.
Sources close to the project (the same sources who told us about the new Lonergan project announced this weekend, that we unfortunately slept on because of TIFF) tell us that Fincher and Ellroy are talking to HBO, and planning a nourish, possibly crime, show set in L.A., in a similar 1950s milieu (like Ellroy’s “L.A. Confidential”).
Details are scare at the moment, but Fincher and Ellroy are mutual admirers who go way back—after the “Black Dahlia” fell through, the two artists stayed in touch, and Ellroy even participated on one of the commentary tracks on the director's cut of "Zodiac" in 2007. No deal is in place yet, and all parties are still discussing the matter (though this could change soon), but the possibility of Fincher doing a hard-boiled '50s neo-noir with the great James Ellroy is a tantalizing prospect (note: pal Steven Soderbergh had a similar idea with Michael Douglas involved last year, but then got distracted with "The Knick"). As the L.A. Times wrote back in 2007, the men have a “mutual interest in obsession and the destruction it leaves behind.”
Fincher has “Gone Girl” coming in the fall, but at the moment his attention has shifted away from film towards television, and right now he is actively developing three TV shows and no movies. And a lot of it is happening at HBO. One is the aforementioned Ellroy project, another is reteaming with “Gone Girl” author Gillian Flynn for an adaptation of her “Utopia,” which already has a series order at HBO, and there’s also “Mind Hunter,” an old project with Charlize Theron involved (just as a producer) about the investigation of serial killers. That one was announced in 2010, but Fincher hasn’t given up on it. It could even turn up at Netflix.
To that end, Fincher's washed his hands clean of "House Of Cards" and won't be back to direct any more episodes. This really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who watched season two become Beau Willimon’s thing, and Fincher announced his own shows around the same time. Fincher helmed no episodes in the second run and was barely involved creatively. Now all that's left is a token executive producer credit.
For those wondering (or hoping), tax credits in Australia or no, Fincher is still not directing Disney's "20,000 Leagues Under The Sea" any longer (he removed himself to that project a year ago and that hasn’t changed). Several issues were at hand there, but a $200 million dollar 3D project from an uncompromising filmmaker might have been the biggest hurdle. The project always made Disney nervous, and Fincher is not a fan of banging his head against the wall with films that don’t move forward. In case it does progress—for what it’s worth, Disney wanted Chris Hemsworth as the lead at the time—as of now it looks as if screenwriter Scott Z. Burns is still attached.
But right now Fincher’s finding the path of least resistance is in television. Studios there are all too happy to have him, and the idea of going, long, wide and deep into characters and story is currently his new fascination. If and when these projects get off the ground Fincher will be heavily involved, directing episodes and being integral to the creative process. But it seems, at the moment, the filmmaker's interest has shifted toward long form cinematic storytelling on different avenues of premium cable television.
Fun fact: the 2013 "Black Dahlia” graphic novel is co-credited to David Fincher because Matz (née French comic book writer Alexis Nolent) was so influenced by conversations with the filmmaker (who almost adapted Matz’s “The Killer” graphic novel back in the day).
Update: Deadline confirms our scoop.The project is called "Shakedown" and not an adaptation of Ellroy's 2012 novella of the same name.